Reading Room: February

Every year I do a reading challenge through the site Goodreads. For the last few years I’ve set my goal as 365 books for the year. It’s not something I realistically think I can achieve but there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment in striving.

This month I read twenty-one books, most of which were e-books thanks to NetGalley and a boon of commissioned reviews. I’m hoping to write longer reviews of 404 Ink’s Nasty Women and Colleen Abel’s poetry chapbook Deviant.

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Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game by Karl Ove Knausgård and Frederik Ekelund

 

As a correspondence these two men have made a safe space for themselves to ramble on about football. Sometimes that rambling is engaging like a good pub discussion but mostly it’s banal & rather frequently unapologetically chauvinist & racist. Knausgaard is the Jonathan Franzen of Europe. His sexism is so casual. I suppose I shouldn’t expect less from a writer whose success is predicated on mansplaining ‘not all men’ over 3600 pages. Ekelund balances this with a fervent distaste or fetishization of any race/religion outside his own. His is the sad bigotry of the Enlightenment white man.All of this made the tiny gems about football too few to warrant the effort. A profoundly disappointing book.

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Cahokia Mounds: America’s First City by William Iseminger

 

A gift shop book picked up when I visited Cahokia last year. Very brief and pretty much covering everything you would see in the museum. There were a couple of dodgy bits and illustrations.

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

 

My wife is a fan of Erik Larson and she’s recruited me. Both of us loved Devil in the White City so when she picked this up, I began reading it the moment she was done. If anything, Larson has increased my knowledge of trans-Atlantic travel in the early 20th century and u-boats so win.

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Let Us Build Us a City by Tracy Daugherty

 

A rather varied essay collection that melds personal narrative with literary criticism in a rather satisfying manner.

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Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson

 

I loved reading Zeroville and was hoping this would be as compelling but it just left me cold.

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The Football Manager’s Guide to Football Management by Iain Macintosh

 

Just a fun, geek read that melds gaming with sport which is rare enough
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The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

Burroughs goes from Cornwall to Beijing in 120 pages in this long short story set in 2137–your typical Imperialist adventure. However, Burroughs great gift is writing a compelling tale that can be easily visualized. A quirky piece of literary history. I’m grateful to Little Red Reviewer for hosting the giveaway that got me this gem.

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Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles

 

Each of these Wonder Woman stories starts pretty much mid-battle given only the hardcore fans any hope of following the story. So a ‘greatest hits’ collection for diehards.

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Trebuchet: Poems by Danniel Schoonebeek

 

To me, these poems work best when read like the stronger poems of Allen Ginsberg. The collection opens strong but over the course of the collection things feel more than a bit meandering and thin. 

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Water: Creating and Managing a Global Resource by Jeremy J. Schmidt

 

Well researched and taking a very interesting angle on the concept of water as a resource. Oddly enough, the prose is far too dry leaving no real narrative to hold on to so as to give substance to the critique.

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Love Your Enemies in Case Your Friends Turn Out to be Bastards: Organizational Case Studies Examining Worksite Politics  by Jake Hagerman

 

My second review of the year. This books sort of falls into the creative nonfiction genre as it melds storytelling memoir with self-help.

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Nasty Women by 404 Ink (editor)

 

This collection of essays by women tackling “the rule of a racist, misogynistic demagogue” is superb in orienting readers to the need for intersectional protest in both public and private spheres. But it isn’t simply or merely a stance against the forty-fifth president (although it most certainly is that), but a collection staking out a hard and fast, defiant articulation against rape culture, against institutionalized sexism, against bigotry, and exclusionary liberalism. This isn’t just about forty-five, but also Brexit’s cultural racism and the hard rightwing turn taken by the US and Europe.

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You’ll Do Anything for Her: A New Relationship Perspective/You’ll Do Anything For Him: A New Relationship Perspective by Maureen E Hosier, Berta Hosier Conger

 

Another commissioned review, this time of a relationship self-help book

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Village Prodigies: Poems by Rodney Jones

 

Aesthetically, this kind of narrative poetry is far too dry, distant, and useless for my tastes. There is a clear project here that Jones executes with skill given his traditionalist talents but nothing in any of the poems or section feels like something that really matters, that pushes how you think or feel.

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The Tut Clone Contracts by Jan Issaye Berkhout

 

Plenty of commissioned reviews this month. This particular novel was entertaining, what if an Egyptian pharoh was cloned multiple times and those clones took Egypt back.

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Deviants by Colleen Abel 

 

After reading an interview with Abel over at Sundress, I downloaded this poetry chapbook. You should read everything Sundress offers you, then give them all the money you can. As a poetry fanboy, I love Sundress and Abel’s chapbook is damn good.

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Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith 

 

A fascinating work melding biology & philosophy in a nuanced & engaging manner.

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Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron, John Cassaday,  & Laura Martin

 

I haven’t read a Star Wars comic since the early 80s. This is the first collection in a new series meant to fill the gaps between the films of the trilogy. It’s seamless & compelling, a wonderful augmentation of the original story. 

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Leaving Whittier: Bicycling Across America in the Summer of Nixon’s Discontent by Ronald Colman, David Colman 

 

One more commissioned review, this time a memoir: “David Colman has put together an excellent travelogue of his late uncle’s journey. It is a work that stands strong as a personal testimony and fascinating historical document.”

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Piece of Mind by Michelle Adelman

 

Not so much a book about someone disabled attempting to deal with it as of someone disabled having to deal with the abled & how they (the abled) fail time and again to understand how they impact a disabled person. There were some truly touching (and frustrating scenes), which mark this book as a success. However, I was less interested in what I felt was forced romance when a more beautiful & fruitful story could have been told just between the siblings.

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David the Great by Victor D. Sutch

 

Not at all my usual fair. A summary or survey of the biblical King David using only the King James version of the Bible as source and reference, of course this was a commissioned review.

**

This month’s Reading Room playlist was rather disjointed but it seems to reflect the books read well enough.

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